How to build innovation faster with tech trends
June 01, 2022
It’s fair to say that every sector is feeling the pressure to move quickly in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape. However, leaders in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry are more aware of the need to move quickly. They understand that swiftness is what will determine whether their organizations exist in the coming years.
The issue here is that it’s not enough to simply operate with agility. FMCG companies must also compete for their customers’ loyalty. And loyalty is far more fleeting today. Consumer behavior and expectations seem to shift every time a digitally-original company enters the market. Innovation is now the key to survival for FMCG organizations. It helps them to better understand and serve their customers’ needs.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to magically aggregate consumer insights, serve them up in real time and then integrate them into operations. At least, not yet. However, there are certainly opportunities on the horizon. And some of these are piquing the interest of forward-looking FMCG leaders.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mohammed Gause. He’s the chief information officer (CIO) of Tiger Brands, a manufacturer and marketer of FMCG in South Africa. Mohammed has over 30 years of experience in systems development, change management, IT operations and strategy formulation.
Mohammed obtained a Bachelor of Science in engineering degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He then joined the management consulting division of Accenture in 1989. In this capacity, he spent 21 years implementing IT and business solutions to clients across several industries. They included Banking, Resources, Transportation and Travel, Oil and Gas, Telecommunications and Broadcasting.
We spoke about the potential of the metaverse and some of the exciting trends that came out of the 2022 Technology Vision report. We also discussed the unique position FMCG leaders find themselves in today.
Read my conversation with Mohammed as we discuss the trends from Technology Vision 2022:
Jeniffer: Mohammed, you recently attended the CIO Connect session, a South African-based forum where peer professionals discussed the latest trends impacting today’s business. During this, we discussed Technology Vision 2022. The report focuses on the Metaverse Continuum. That is, a spectrum of digitally-enhanced worlds, realities and business models that will revolutionize life and enterprise in the next decade. But how do you think the metaverse will affect your business?
Mohammed: I believe the metaverse will have a transformational impact on the FMCG industry. The metaverse is becoming the new playground for consumer and FMCG companies. It’s enabling them to launch their new products and ranges in the virtual world. It’s also helping drive brand value and consumer experiences.
The metaverse provides opportunities for FMCG companies to develop virtual products. These products cross over between the physical and virtual worlds. It also supports new ways to market goods. The possibilities are endless.
This next decade requires us to leverage new technologies ... And we must develop the necessary innovation skills to support these technologies.
Jeniffer: On the topic of redefining the FMCG industry, last year, we heard that Tiger Brands implemented a manufacturing control system. The goal was to enable its digitalization journey with Siemens. I understand that automation was a key enabler of that journey. It’s also a key component of the second Tech Vision trend, the Programmable World. Can you tell us more about it?
Mohammed: Our manufacturing plants required a technology management solution overhaul. We took a phased approach to the project. The first Tiger Brands plant selected was our beverages manufacturing facility in Roodekop, Germiston.
The immediate challenges were linked to the stability of a legacy control system and the communication network in place. Additionally, the existing control and automation platform had limited capabilities when it came to batching, reporting and the tracking and tracing of materials.
The project involved upgrading the legacy plant control system. We implemented a combined Siemens WinCC SCADA and process management (PM)-Add-ons. Tiger Brands also uses Siemens’ Totally Integrated Automation portal (TIA). It provides a unified engineering platform and diagnostics for all the associated devices on-site.
Today, the WinCC SCADA and PM-Add-ons enable enhanced visualizations and product traceability. They’re provided across the entire production line. Automation, customization and visualization were key components to the success of this digital transformation.
Mohammed: I would say WebMe. It’s crucial for our business to rethink its online presence. We want to help shape the next platform revolution. This is especially true as we build new ways to connect with customers, partners and our digital workforce.
Technologies such as Web3, blockchain/distributed ledger technologies, digital identity, virtual reality and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). These are going to play a huge part in providing unified experiences. They will enable the interoperability of customers’ data across different platforms and spaces. And they will fundamentally change how businesses engage with their users online.
Jeniffer: A critical driver of success for the metaverse is fostering trust in the underlying technology and experiences. It’s key to driving adoption and user acceptance. You mentioned a few new technologies that some might argue can create concern around user trust, sustainability, security and safety. What would you say are some of the key points for businesses to create trust among consumers?
Mohammed: Businesses should think about the things that are important to consumers. They should consider everything from ownership of data to sustainability and beyond. First, businesses need to evaluate risk and guard against fraud, criminal activity and immature infrastructure. It’s vital that they think about safety. And they must be responsible for the security and privacy for all metaverse experiences.
Another important aspect is ethics. Businesses should establish strong principles to guide the development of technologies and platforms. It’s vital for proactively preventing bad outcomes. Diversity is also important. Businesses must ensure the metaverse is open and inclusive for everyone.
Lastly, there are valid concerns about the metaverse needing more computing power and therefore producing more carbon. This understandably presents sustainability challenges. Companies should embed green IT solutions. For example, they can use green software and green cloud. It will help mitigate these problems as they design and build the metaverse.
Jeniffer: Would you like to share any other closing thoughts for our readers?
Mohammed: We really stand at a unique juncture. This next decade requires us to leverage new technologies like the ones mentioned. And we must develop the necessary innovation skills to support these technologies.
But it will also require a truly competitive vision for what our future worlds will look like and what businesses need to do to succeed in them. This presents new and exciting opportunities for businesses like mine to partner with companies like Accenture. Together, we can create this vision and make it a reality.
Thank you to Mohammed Gause for sharing his thoughts on Technology Vision 2022 and how its trends translate into his business.